Wed, May 28, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Ministry moves to survey disputed Tiaoyutais islands

FEARS The government is bracing itself for a diplomatic backlash from Japan, who also have staked a claim in the strategic group of islets

STAFF WRITER

The Ministry of the Interior is taking measures to strengthen Taiwan's claim to sovereignty over the disputed Tiaoyutai islands.

The group of uninhabited islets about 180km north of Taiwan are claimed by Taiwan, China and Japan. Called the Senkakus in Japanese, the islands are surrounded by rich fishing waters and could be rich in mineral reserves.

According to local media reports, the ministry recently decided to allocate the funds needed to conduct a satellite survey of the islands' surface area and topography. The report states that, after compiling the data, the ministry plans to include it on official maps of Taiwan, and issue unequivocal official declarations to neighboring countries and the international community that Taiwan claims complete sovereignty over the Tiaoyutai islands.

An official is reported as saying that Taiwan in the past has not landed on the islands to avoid armed conflict with Japan, which is patrolling the surrounding waters.

According to the report, the official said that this has resulted in Taiwan lacking detailed information about the islands' surface area and topography, which has been a disadvantageous to Taiwan's claim to sovereignty over the islands.

The report says that in order to proceed in a cautious manner, the ministry has also invited representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defense for inter-ministerial consultations on how to handle a possible diplomatic conflict with Japan following an international announcement of the satellite survey and a claim to sovereignty over the islands.

Official maps of Taiwan currently include only approximate data on the islands' surface area and topography, as well as inexact data on their latitudinal and longitudinal position.

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